I finally saw An Inconvenient Truth last night. Our church hosted a screening, followed by a discussion. About 50 people attended - half members of our congregation, half others. Our minister and a counselor experienced in talking with people about the environment facilitated a check-in before the movie and a discussion after. Part of the idea was to think about our emotional response to global warming and to talk about ways that we react to our strong feelings. Denial, fear, anger, hopelessness, cynicism, fatalism...all of these feelings are natural in the face of a problem this big. The thing is, you can feel them and acknowledge them, then go on to do something about the problem. Without being overtly religious, parts of the discussion paralleled the faith journey that many of us take - even when we struggle to make sense or believe in any good in the universe/creation, part of us moves along to finding and following that good path. It's like the last thing we allow ourselves to believe in is ourselves.
I went to the movie totally believing in global warming, half believing in the power of the people of the world to do something about it, and fearful I would be disappointed in the way that the message was conveyed. I had heard that it was "The Al Gore Dog and Pony Show," its good intent tainted by too much Gore-as-idol. But by the time the movie finished I could see why so much of the focus was put on the man. The message is strong, convincing, relentlessly awful until near the end when we see that we do have the capacity to make meaningful change. The Gore stories give us a personality with which to associate the message. Most of the information we have read or heard in bits and bites through other media. In the movie, a personal connection is made with a man, his personal understanding of the problem (beginining in university in the late 60s) and why it has meaning to him. I think the film-makers chose to convey it this way to help it stick in our hearts. Our brains have the ability to compartmentalize, defer and shut down segments. Our hearts are relentless once something gets stuck there. I think they were trying to stick Al Gore in our hearts so the message would be pushed to our brains in a more compelling and enduring way.
I think it's human nature that we are compelled to understanding, belief and action by a personal connection - moreso than just by information alone. Again, it parallels how religious belief works, if you think about Jesus as God transformed from an abstract principle to a personification of that principle. I know that not all world religions have one spokesperson, but most that I know about have people or characters who stand for their core values. Personal stories are allegory for what we know to be true in a more general sense, and for the goodness to which we aspire.
I am not saying that Al Gore is analagous to Jesus. I am saying that the human response to a person over an idea is similar. Think about the ideas and values that have meaning to you. Most will be connected to a person in your life or in the life of the world who symbolizes the best of the idea.
So if Al Gore is the popular figurehead for reduction of carbon dioxide emission, that's okay with me. And if Al Gore doesn't speak to everyone, there are others who are conveying this message effectively, even if they don't receive academy awards. I'm thankful for many voices to speak to many hearts. Those hearts will push those scared and sad and mad minds to action that will make change.
question: have you seen it?
mompoet - trying to connect my brain to my heart on a regular basis